I think it's about time we bury the idea that black people are somehow uniquely vulnerable to race-based political appeals, don't you?
In a historic landslide, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen won the 9th Congressional District's Democratic primary Thursday, signaling the end of Memphis political dominance for his challenger, former Mayor Willie Herenton.
In unofficial results, Cohen received 79 percent of the vote to Herenton's 21 percent.
Herenton ran an explicitly race-based campaign, running around with pictures of Tennessee's all-white congressional delegation, using the slogan "Just one" to persuade Memphis voters that they should pick him over Cohen because Cohen happens to be white. You'd think that Herenton, the first black mayor of Memphis, would have more pull in the community. Instead Cohen crushed him as unceremoniously as he crushed Nikki Tinker two years earlier, who similarly tried to appeal to race-based tribalism in the district at the expense of an actual agenda.
This outcome -- like the thumping of Artur Davis in Alabama's gubernatorial primary -- isn't surprising. Despite suggestions to the contrary, black people are perfectly capable of rationally assessing whether a particular candidate would better represent their interests independent of race. It's not the '70s anymore, symbolic representation isn't enough, and that's all Herenton was offering.
Meanwhile, in this spirit, it's time to let Cohen into the Congressional Black Caucus. There's no rational reason to keep him out -- he represents a mostly black district whose constituents would benefit from his membership in the group; they shouldn't be punished because they chose a white representative.